Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Epic Finale @ Bacardi Cup

J/70s sailing Bacardi Cup off MiamiCATAPULT Tops Overall, MUSE Wins Corinthians
(Miami, FL)- No one could have scripted the finale any better for the 2018 edition of the Bacardi Cup J/70 Invitational, hosted by Coral Reef YC.  Going into the final day, four teams had an opportunity to make two races work in their favor mathematically to win in the 47-boat fleet.  All four teams were within ten points of each other at the start of the day, a scenario that would keep them all anxious until the final leg of the eighth and final race.  By sailing consistently in the extremely challenging conditions on Saturday, Joel Ronning’s CATAPULT secured the victory with a 4-4 tally to finish with 24 pts net.  As result, it was the third time the fleet leader changed in the three-day event, a remarkable outcome considering the roller-coaster scorelines for the top five teams.  Here is what took place over the three days.

J/70s sailing fast off Miami in BacardiDay 1- Thrills & Spills
The anxiety level rose as the J/70 fleet headed out onto racetrack in a breeze gusting up to 20 knots, shifting 20-30 deg from the northwest across Biscayne Bay.  The puffy conditions saw plenty of thrills and spills, although the heavier breeze eased to lighter shiftier conditions as the day progressed.

Three races produced three different winners for the J/70 fleet. No surprise to see the top players jousting out front with 2016 J/70 World Champion Joel Ronning (USA) on CATAPULT taking race 2, 2017 J/70 Worlds silver Medallist Brian Keane (USA) securing the third and 2017 J/70 World Champion Jud Smith (crewing for Peter Duncan) taking the first.

Onboard dialogue is key between the four-person crew to get the right combination of speed, tactics and race strategy, and in his mix, Ronning has the relentlessly talented John Kostecki. A sailor holding multiple World titles across numerous classes, Kostecki’s victories stretch back to 1982 when he won the Sunfish Worlds and most recently last year’s TP52 Worlds. In between World Championship titles, he has won the 2001 Volvo Ocean Race and the 2010 America’s Cup on BMW Oracle.

Smith did a horizon job in the opening race, winning with a massive margin, and followed up with scores of 2-10.

There were big names at the front of the fleet and further down the pack, too.  A new face to the J/70 class was spotted in the form of two-time Olympian Paige Railey (USA), who found herself at the Bacardi Cup on the invitation of her long-time friend.

“Of course, I said yes,” grinned Railey about the call from best friend Jessica Lombard. “Miami is actually one of my favorite locations to sail in the world. Out of all the World Cups I have always enjoyed coming to this one in the Olympic scene,” she said in reference to her usual Olympic programmed in the Laser Radial.

Aside from multiple successes at the Laser Radial World Championships, Miami has been where Railey has secured most of her successes, winning here an epic six times at Sailing World Cup events. Still Olympic campaigning, for now Railey has turned her attention to supporting her pal Jessica on the J/70.

“When I have sailed here in Miami at the World Cup I have always known about all the guys that stay after and do the Bacardi Cup. So there has always been this ‘mystique’ to this event and it is a really prestige event because all the top sailors around the world come,” Railey continued. Despite her numerous successes around the world the Bacardi Cup remained on her ‘to do’ list.

“Of course when invited to come sail the Bacardi Cup, I jumped at the opportunity, because just to be a part of it and say that I did it is pretty cool in itself. The Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta has always been this famous event.”

“Growing up in the Olympic role is obviously very intense all the time, and the social aspect after the sailing is – not like this!” Railey laughed. “So, to come in and you know the mood is really relaxed, you’re opening with talking about things, how you can improve and help each other, and then the social scene is the best. In intense sailing you can forget that sailing is really important, but also the aspect onshore too. The Bacardi Cup Invitational Regatta is one of the best in the world for providing that.”

At the close of sailing on Thursday, Ronning’s CATAPULT was leading with a 2-1-4 for 7 pts.  Second was Keane’s SAVASANA with a 4-4-1 for 9 pts and third was Smith’s AFRICA with a 1-2-10 for 13 pts. Current J/70 World Champion, Peter Duncan on RELATIVE OBSCURITY, was just hanging on to the top five with a 5-10-6 tally for 21 pts.

Leading the Corinthians Division was Heather Gregg’s MUSE from Newport, RI and New York YC with a 13-7-14.

J/70s sailing off Miami in Bacardi at markDay 2- Light, Tricky Winds
Friday’s racing produced another day of perfect conditions, but a few upsets on the leader board as the overnight leaders in both fleets were knocked down the leaderboard a peg or two.

So far, Biscayne Bay has thrown up a complete mix of weather conditions, pushing teams to deliver their best across light to moderate breezes from the north to northeast and under a scorching sun to cloud cover. No day has been the same and so far no one team has dominated.

Three races were completed for a total of six so far, with one race discard. The leaderboard continued to have the same three top teams, just in a different order.

Keane’s SAVASANA now shifted into the lead, with Smith’s AFRICA moving up to second, while overnight leader Ronning’s CATAPULT dropped to third. There was just 4 points between these leading teams and plenty of talent close behind.

Three races and three different winners, with Peter Duncan showing the fleet how to win with panache, as he walked away from the fleet after amassing a massive gain on the pack in the day’s opening race. Keane took the win in the second race of the day, with Glenn Darden’s HOSS from Fort Worth, TX claiming victory in the third.

Meanwhile, in the Corinthians Division, Heather Gregg’s MUSE continued to lead despite a horrific fourth race and surviving races 5 & 6 to capture two 16ths to remain in the lead.

J/70s planing fast- sailing off Miami in BacardiDay #3- Epic, Drama-filled Finale
The final day produced a wildly gyrating up and down, very streaky, southeast breeze of 10-17 kts in a choppy sea and tropical temperatures on Biscayne Bay.

Despite the insane, anxiety-ridden beats, and especially crazy downwind runs (varying between planing and soak modes), the victory went to Ronning’s CATAPULT team of Chris Stokey, Patrick Wilson, and John Kostecki.

Entering the day in third overall, Ronning’s super consistent scores of 4-4 enabled them to win while their closest rivals notched up double-digit results. Going into the decisive race, Ronning held a 5-point lead with Jud Smith and Brian Keane tied for second and third place on 25 points each.

The teams knew exactly how close the final day would be for them.  Commenting before the racing, Keane said, “It’s very tight. To win, there is one throw-out and you’ve got to be out there and aggressive. You can’t sail to lose, you have to go out there to win and we intend to be aggressive right from the start. We feel confident in our boat speed and if we can get off the line, we should do well. It’s a tremendous regatta, I haven’t seen competition like this in a long time.”

Unfortunately, this time, Keane’s strategy did not quite unfold as planned, as he and his crew on SAVASANA were knocked out of the lead they held before race 7 to end the series in third overall, closing with scores of 13-7.

Smith, who sailed with Peter Duncan to win the 2017 J/70 World Championship, and his team on Africa, held onto second overall despite also having double-digit scores, with an 11-5 on the day.

“Going into today there were four teams who were all phenomenal and anyone could have got it,” said Patrick Wilson, trimmer on CATAPULT. “It was cut-throat out there and somehow we ended up winning. It came down to the last shift in the last race. It was amazingly close, very competitive sailing.”

Talking about their solid performance, Wilson continued, “We just sort of ground it out and stayed in good spots, did well and the whole team sailed really well together.”

A standout performance came from the first J/70 World Champion held in Newport, RI- Tim Healy; he won both races to move up from 8th overall to 5th.

J/70 MUSE- Heather Gregg- sailing off MiamiIn the Corinthians Division, Heather Gregg’s MUSE and her team of Stuart Johnstone, Patrick Powell, and Patrick Norris won and also placed 10th overall in the Open category.  In fact, MUSE had the 4th best record of all teams on the final day with a 7-2 (even leading the final race for awhile!).  Taking second was DIME from Seattle, WA, with skipper Andrew Loe and family crew of Mallory Loe, Jennifer Glass, and Benjamin Glass.  Third was Nancy Glover’s team on WINTERWIND that consisted of Marc Foster, Kevin Kendall, and Donald Myers.

Heather Gregg, owner/skipper of MUSE had this to say about the event, “What an amazing regatta, 3 days of breeze with even more competition in the J/70 Class than ever! Conditions were tough, a lot of chop so you had to be very focused driving upwind and dialing in your mode. Downwind there were some big gains to be made and those teams that transitioned well between planing and soaking and back again gained big. That's what I love about the 70, transitioning is key and making those decisions downwind are critical.“   Sailing photo credits- Tim Wilkes.com  Follow the Bacardi Cup on FB here   For more Bacardi Cup J/70 Invitational sailing information Add to Flipboard Magazine.